Monday’s assembly was about congratulations of different sorts. We commended Hamish R for gaining a distinction in his Grade 1 acoustic guitar music examination. I handed out certificates to all those Form 5 pupils who finished in the top ten of the recent Sumdog online Maths competition, and indeed a certificate to the form for coming top of the competition table overall. I paid tribute to the four boys who on Sunday represented the victorious Scottish Prep Schools against the Edinburgh Schools Select for their performance, both on and off the pitch, and finally I congratulated Mrs Bell and her team of staff who have produced the school magazine. I am sure you will all agree it is a splendid record of the academic year 2015/16.
We were then treated to GAP students Matt and Emily, who talked us through their foreign excursions during the year that they have been with us. They have visited 22 countries over the last twelve months, and spoke of how enlightening, enriching and uplifting their travels have been. Soon after assembly, as the rest of the school headed back to classes, Upper Kindergarten and Reception provided a small audience with a
most amusing and very endearing version of the nativity story. 
As happens each year, some of our actors went “off script”, but by and large the story was told effectively. Forms 6, 7 and 8 were treated to a Christmas party in the Morrison Hall that afternoon, and whilst high spirited, I am pleased to say they made the most of the opportunity staff had given in providing them with this entertainment, and the pupils demonstrated their gratitude appropriately.
On Tuesday, following a Carol Service rehearsal, we held the term’s final assembly, during which I awarded Headmaster’s Commendations, colours and prizes for squad performances. We then took the opportunity of thanking Emily and Matt more formally for their fantastic contribution to school life for the year they have been with us. We also paid tribute to the four terms that Irene Pariente has been working at St. Mary’s, always donning a smile, ever cheerful and upbeat, and very professional. We are touched that Miss Pariente came for a term and stayed for four, and we thanked her most sincerely for all she has done. And then we said an emotional farewell to Mr Mill, whose four years began as a part-time rugby coach, quickly changed into part-time coach, teacher and housemaster, and finally, full-time coach, teacher, housemaster and all things good here at St. Mary’s. Richard has become one of the St. Mary’s family. I wrote on a card we gave him “Aachaye kweli huirudia”.  This is a Swahili expression which means someone who has done good in an area will always be welcome back when he/she returns. Mr Mill then attempted to speak, and successfully illustrated how passionate he is about St. Mary’s. He bestowed on the school a most touching gift: his framed shirt, worn against England when representing the Scotland 7s side. This gift is accompanied by an engraved plaque, and will take pride of place in the Hamilton Building.
Later on that day, some dubious staff “entertainment” took place, and the appearance of Elliott Hardie – albeit donning a wig that made it hard to differentiate him from his mother Mrs Hardie – gave me the opportunity to thank him in front of the school for all his hard work on the games field over the last few terms, and indeed for his recent stint in the boarding house. We wish Elliott all the very best as he heads to complete his physiotherapy degree in Glasgow.
Yesterday morning, we were privileged to listen to an outstanding contribution from our pupils who read, played instruments in the orchestra, and performed in various choirs as part of the Christmas Carol Service in Melrose Parish Church. There were many highlights, but possibly the outstanding contribution belonged to Dicken, who opened up with a stunning solo of the first verse of ‘Once In Royal David’s City’. 
church service

The Carol Service concluded with a collection for Radio Borders Cash for Kids appeal and The Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a charity brought to our attention by the inspirational Dr Tom Hawson. On behalf of both charities, thank you for your generosity, which totalled a sum of £700. 
As I finish my report for the week and concluded proceedings for the term, it is appropriate to announce that Dicken has been awarded a place in the National Youth Choir of Scotland, a reward for a young man who showed so much composure, courage and expertise in his performance earlier yesterday. 
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas holiday, and I look forward to seeing the children back here at school on Thursday 5th January at 8:25am.

Jules Birdsall, 15/12/2016

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